How it all works.
Here at the farm we see a direct relationship between the work we do and our standard of living. The more we work the better everything is. If we don't cut firewood we will be cold and have no hot water or cooked meals. If we don't milk the cow or grow food for the cow we won't have milk with our breakfast. If we don't spend the time in the garden we'll have no tomatoes for our lunches.
It really doesn't compare with what happens in the wider wage earning world. Here it takes hours of work for just a few litres of milk and hours more to make cheese. Sitting down to crackers and cheese from the shop might cost you $2.00 for a box of crackers and maybe $10.00 for a nice piece of cheese, not a lot. Here on the farm that same mid afternoon snack represents hours of love and labour.
Let's look at a basic lunch for 4 people....
On an average day we might fill the table with .....
Fresh hot bread.
Farm fresh butter.
Fruit and yoghurt.
Sweet vegetable pickles.
Tomatoes, lettuce and spring onions.
Hard boiled eggs.
Sweet spiced beetroot.
To put this on the table we...
Grow cow food, build fences, milk the cow, separate the cream, churn the butter, wash the butter, make and age the cheese, ferment the yoghurt. Then clean up after doing all of this.
Make bread (sometimes this will include grinding the wheat). Then clean up.
Make compost, weed the garden, make liquid manure, spread compost, build trellises, train plants, sow seed, plant seedlings, water the garden, fix pumps, install irrigation, pick the vegetables, prepare the vegetables, grind spices, grow herbs, pick herbs, make vinegar (by growing apples, picking apples, juicing apples, then fermenting the juice).
Wash jars, pack jars, mix the pickle mix, process the jars. Then clean up.
Plant fruit trees, feed, weed and water the orchard. Prune trees, mix farm made sprays, spray trees, pick fruit, clean fruit, prepare fruit. Make syrup, pack jars, process jars. Then clean up.
Breed pigs, grow pig food, fill wallows, scrub water troughs, butcher a pig, repair fences, build fences, pickle pork, smoke pork, bottle ham. Then clean up.
Raise chickens, grow feed, build pens, build fences, clean water troughs, fill feed troughs, pick greens, collect eggs, chop wood, stoke the stove, cook eggs. Then clean up.
And much more....
Sure we don't do all of this for ONE meal but we have to do ALL of these things plus more to put this on the table. Some of these things are done EVERY day, some once a week, some every week or two, some a few times a year.
There is much much more going on here, solar power, repairing machinery, building sheds, woodworking projects, making gates, cutting fence posts, working on the house, propagating for the nursery, repotting, track repairs, making stabilised earth floors, clearing fire breaks etc. All needs to be done and it all goes together to make the farm as self sufficient as possible. On top of all this we are always teaching ourselves new skills and trying new things.
Visitors to the farm might only help with some of those things but we like everyone to be aware of just what it takes to maintain and improve this place. Every visitor to the farm will share in the fruit of their own and everyone elses' labour.
Wouldn't it be cheaper and easier just to buy everything?
We get asked this a lot.
It can be very difficult to put a value on a single item we make/produce, everything is so interconnected. We are often asked if it is cheaper to make something rather than buy it, that is a surprisingly hard question to answer. Take milk for example. It costs a lot to feed the cows, especially during summer. If we simply transfer this cost onto milk production it would look like our milk costs us 10 times what we could buy it for. But we also make other dairy products and feed the pigs and dogs milk, whey and yoghurt. The cows are also important manure producers and they are just plain fun to have around. We also raise our own beef.
Lets look at this the other way around....
In one week the cows give us
10 litres of milk
1kg hard cheese
1kg other cheeses
1 kg butter
20 kg whey for the pigs
plus about 60kg of farm yoghurt for the dogs, pigs and chickens
about 3kg meat
about 350kg of poop
Lets put a dollar value on this..... from the cheapest source this would be worth about $110 for dairy, $30.00 meat and $20 for poop, from an organic farm more like $300.00 dairy, $75.00 meat and $40.00 poop.
Would we buy all this stuff if we didn't have the cows, no, we could never afford it, but because of our lifestyle we get to enjoy top quality dairy products, grow milk fed pork, eat the best beef cuts and improve our soils.
It doesn't stop there though, the chickens will pick through the cow poo to find bugs, this helps produce eggs and meat. Pigs and sheep will graze the grass that is fed by all that poo, it really is a complex interwoven cycle.